The term “PaGaian” requires some explanation: it expresses a reclaiming of the term “Pagan” as meaning a person who dwells in “country”, yet with “Gaian” spliced in, it expresses a renewed and contemporary understanding of that “country”. “Gaia” is a name for humanity’s Habitat, an ancient yet new name, which I understand to include whole Earth and Cosmos – there is no seam separating Earth from Her context. And Pagan religious tradition offers a spiritual practice of celebrating Earth-Sun Creativity manifest in this Habitat. The cosmology described in this book makes a start on bringing all of this together. It is written from a Southern Hemisphere perspective which may enable a freeing of the Earth-Sun cycle and experience from the Gregorian calendar year: placing it more clearly for a moment in its Cosmic country.
Brian Swimme, a mathematical cosmologist, describes “cosmology” as
a wisdom tradition drawing upon not just science but religion and art and philosophy. Its principle aim is not the gathering of facts and theories but the transformation of the human1.
PaGaian cosmology draws upon all of this and has the same principle aim. The cosmology described is based in the indigenous female-related religions of “Gaia”, yet draws in contemporary knowledge/sense of Her from the sciences and humanity studies; it has many strands that are ancient, present and not-yet. This wisdom tradition is organic in nature, in the sense that its metaphor arose out of the human organism – which is this breathing body, this Earth, this Cosmos … human “country” – as an earliest and now contemporary expression of the Sacred. It is indigenous to each human as inhabitant of “Gaia” – this materia – whose primordial creative dynamics permeate all of existence as we know it; thus this cosmology’s expression may be diverse and complex. Yet such conscious place-ment of ourselves in our Habitat with story from many disciplines and peoples, and with art and ceremony, may enable conscious human participation in Gaia’s eternal transformation – both personally and collectively.
Throughout this book I will be capitalizing words such as Moon, Sun, Earth, Universe, Cosmos and sometimes Habitat (depending on the context) to re-invest these places with sentience, to name them as sacred places – not mere objects. It is central to the cosmology described herein that the world we live in is sacred space, and sentient. By sentient I mean an intelligent space, a capacity that is alive with potentialty2. For this reason also, I will at times omit the article “the”, when speaking of these places. And just as it is common to capitalize “Western” when referring to Western culture for instance, so will I capitalize “Cosmic” when referring to the Cosmos’ characteristics or patterns. I am thereby assigning “Cosmos” with at least as much credibility and diginity as “West”, as a place, as a habitat. There are other instances where I capitalize words such as Dark, Light, Depths: I mean to invest these words with a numinosity – as names of actual aspects of the Sacred Universe. They are also aspects – Places – of our psyches. I capitalize “Seasonal Moments3” – traditionally known as the “Sabbats” – as I mean to designate this term with the special “grace” of these transitions, as the holy day of any spiritual tradition is so designated. In the case of capitalizing “Female Metaphor” I mean it in the sense of female metaphor for the Divine, for the Sacred, for Ultimate Reality – I speak more of this in later chapters. I also capitalize “Creativity”, as I mean it in the sense of the Absolute activity – as another name for the Divine, the Absolute; I refer to the use of this name again in Chapter 1.
I also offer some explanation of my decidedly liberal use of slashes between words in the text (that is ,“/”). Despite some initial dispute about it, I decided that the slashes needed to remain, as the words connected in this way support and enlarge each other’s meaning. For example, in the case of “work/creativity”, either word on its own would not convey my meaning to most minds, nor would “work or creativity”: I don’t mean “ or ” as in “either”. I mean to integrate “work” and “creativity” – to feel them as a whole, re-valuing each of them in the process. I was told that the slash-connected words stopped the flow of the words, made the reader stop a minute: I think that may be desirable in the case of such words, as the very nature of the “re-inventing” described herein requires thought about what is meant.
This book is the presentation of a cosmology, and an art form – of ritual – that expresses and celebrates it. This cosmology represents for me a template of wholeness … which the Universe must be. I have been prepared to trust myself to this template – because it seemed to me to be so basic to Earth and Sun and Cosmos – our Place of being, our Habitat. I have come to represent this template in a three-layered arrangement – a mandala, a pattern which has inscribed itself within me through my conscious practice of its story and rhythm, in my place on the planet. At the edges of this particular mandala are the four elements in four directions – Water, Fire, Earth, Air4. These are things I can identify as held in common to all being on this planet, and “Their” sensate presence can be felt within any being. Within that boundary is a circle formed by eight objects, representing the eight seasonal points that I and many others have celebrated in recognition of the regional phases of our planet’s relationship with our source of energy and life, the Sun. The centre of the arrangement is formed by three candles and associated objects which represent the Triple Spiral, the three faces of the Metaphor for the Creative Dynamic that I perceive continually unfolds it all. I came to perceive this ancient code – the Triple Spiral – as three dynamics of a mystery that was manifest everywhere, that I can touch, that I am, that I can become. The practice of the ritual celebration of the Seasonal Points may become a deepening into such a mandala – each being in a unique way; so that at a single glance something is known and felt.
The rituals of celebration of the Seasonal Moments as a whole year-long experience, when participated in fully as an art process and relationship with Gaia – our Habitat, become a sacred site. Caitlin Matthews, who has practiced the Wheel of the Year for decades, describes the “seasonal thresholds” thus:
The circuit of the earth about the sun is like the … revolving walk of a pilgrim about a sacred site: at each point of the circumambulation, there arises a different symbology in the changing weather and in the correspondences of the growing world5.
One may enter into this sacred site through the particular Gaian seasons – Her particular modes of creativity. My practice of the ritual celebration of the Seasonal Moments – the great annual ritual of Earth and Sun – has enabled a shift in my sense of space and time, which is perhaps the most significant barrier to a return to an indigenous sense of being, to an archetypal relationship with the Universe.
This book shares some of the insights and transformational experiences gained from my doctoral research6. I was fortunate to be able to formally and academically document and study my experience and that of other participants in the ritual celebrations, some of whom had also participated in classes I taught. The thesis was in-formed by responses of women and men to these experiences, and to processes used that called forth imagination, presented in the form of teaching, meditations, dance, ritual, and storytelling, wherein female imagery was primary. The academic engagement of the ritual process which was already taking place was a form of “sacred science7.” Many participants, in both the research and in general, have asked for the book. I envision it as a work that is never finished or complete. It hopefully says enough at this time to simply facilitate further re-storying and celebrating of Gaia-Goddess-Cosmos in much variation, by those readers who find it fires a passion of their own. I have retained a measure of the academic references in the form of footnotes to each chapter, so it might be used for academic purposes; also I am pre-disposed to remember the particular poetic expressions of my forebears, teachers and colleagues who have been part of the forming of this work. This work is a blend of both academic and personal text, that hopefully satisfies the minds and hearts of many who desire both capacities.
The structure of this book is layered – pieces that are at first introduced are later deepened. In the Introduction, I lay out some of the context, personal and cultural, and give an account of my method of approach. I introduce my perspective on ritual, which is in large part the central method of the re-invention being described. The place or region, which has been the site of the work, which is further context, is introduced. I describe the role of metaphor, and the need for a functional cosmology, and introduce the notion of the Female Metaphor (“Goddess”) as a Cosmic Metaphor of Creativity. Chapter 1 introduces “Gaia” as a name for our sacred context and develops further the term “Female Metaphor” as a way of speaking of “Goddess”. I discuss language and introduce “Cosmogenesis” – the creative dynamic unfolding of the Universe8. The seasonal Wheel of the Year, an indigenous Western spiritual practice, is introduced. Chapter 2 discusses issues of embodiment and gender, and religion; and the significance of the Moon and Her three phases of waxing, peaking and waning. I describe more of my context – personal, cultural and cosmic. Chapter 3 develops the re-storying of the Female Metaphor – of Goddess in Her three aspects of Virgin, Mother and Crone – the necessity for such and how that may be possible. This “re-storying” that I present is based on evidence of past understandings combined with present experience and understandings. It is not a “proof”, it is a “re-storying”. In Chapter 4, pointing out the benefit of ritual and metaphorical connection with Gaia’s Creative Dynamics, I deepen the piece of Cosmogenesis and its association with the Female Metaphor. Chapter 5 develops deeper layers to the piece of the seasonal points of the Wheel of the Year, telling the story of it in a new way: thus naming my telling of it as “PaGaian”. I associate it with Gaia’s story – the evolutionary story of the Universe, Her Creativity and the three faces of Goddess. Chapter 6 develops possible ritual format, processes and the poetic themes of each Sabbat – how they may enable the embodiment of the Creative Metaphor. Chapter 7 describes the actual ritual events as they have been done, and presents the full ritual scripts as they are at this time. Chapter 8 concludes with my experience of this shamanic process of re-creation, including how this created Con-text of cosmology and practice may meet what Thomas Berry calls the “meta-religious” challenge of our time9. This challenge he says, which goes beyond the human order to the entire geo-biological order of the planet, is the context in which “all human affairs need to establish their reality and their value – and their sense of the sacred10”. The “sense of the sacred” in the practice of this PaGaian Cosmology is brought “Home” – a place where the domestic is cosmic, a Habitat that each being may know intimately.
(c) Glenys Livingstone 2005
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1 Brian Swimme, The Hidden Heart of the Cosmos, p.31.
2 The dictionary definition of “sentience” is “intelligence … the readiness to receive sensation, idea or image … unstructured available consciousness … feeling”, Webster’s Third International Dictionary of the English Language, p.2069.
3 This is a term I sometimes use to speak of the “Sabbats”, the eight Earth holy days of the Old European calendar. Thomas Berry has often referred to these Earth-Sun transitions as ”moments of grace”.
4 This is their order in the anti-clockwise direction in the Southern Hemisphere East Coast location – as many in this place choose to arrange them.
5 Matthews, Caitlin. The Celtic Spirit, p. 339.
6 The full thesis entitled: “THE FEMALE METAPHOR – VIRGIN, MOTHER, CRONE – OF THE DYNAMIC COSMOLOGICAL UNFOLDING:
Her Embodiment in Seasonal Ritual as a Catalyst for Personal and Cultural Change”, is available at
7 As defined by John Heron, Sacred Science: Person-Centred Inquiry into the Spiritual and the Subtle,p.1-2.
8 Sometimes referred to as “evolution”, which may be mistaken to imply “progress” of some kind. When I use the term “evolution” or “evolutionary” in this book, I do not mean to imply “progress” or any kind of “teleology” necessarily. It is simply meant in the sense of perceiving “a time-developmental process” (Swimme and Berry, The Universe Story, p.223). There is a story of the universe – that is, a sequence of events – that Western science has perceived as having taken place, and it is an “irreversible sequence of transformations”, as Swimme and Berry describe. There does appear to be greater complexity, greater variety and intensity as can be observed on planet Earth, but this does not mean to imply an “ascent” as has been common to think in Western culture. I do not mean “evolution” to imply a heirarchy of development, simply perhaps a holarchy- which is an expansive nested reality that depends on what went before.
9 Thomas Berry, ”The University: Its Response to the Ecological Crisis”. Available athttp://www.ecoethics.net/ops/univers.htm
10 Thomas Berry, ”The University: Its Response to the Ecological Crisis”. Available athttp://www.ecoethics.net/ops/univers.htm